Exclusive: NBC News Plans Latino-Targeted Site

In a move that reflects the growing importance of Hispanic audiences for news divisions, NBC News is planning to launch an NBCLatino.com site targeting Hispanics sometime in early 2012, reports NBC News president Steve Capus.

The move marks the first time that an English-language broadcast network news division has launched a Web site specifically targeted to Hispanic Americans and highlights a growing interest in the country's fastest growing ethnic group among news divisions. In November, CNN launched a Spanish-language site, CNNenEspanol.com.

The English-language NBCLatino.com will target U.S. born and English-dominant Hispanics with a mix of news, politics, lifestyle, parenting, education and other issues important to that group.

Capus notes that the launch is part of a two pronged strategy of being both the largest broadcast news organization and at the same time developing "more specifically targeted ventures that are a natural offshoot of what we do."

As part of that effort, NBC News has already launched an African-American targeted news site, TheGrio.com.

To run NBCLatino.com, the news organization has established a bilingual staff, which has already been producing content at nbclatino.tumblr.com. Very importantly, the effort will also draw on resources throughout the news division as well as other parts of NBCUniversal, which includes the expanding Spanish-language news operations of Telemundo.

"It is important for news organizations to stay relevant to their audiences and -- let's be honest -- traditional news organizations are often not as relevant as they should be to Hispanics and Latinos," notes Capus, who adds that the effort will also allow them targeting a very rapidly growing audience.

Chris Peña, managing editor of NBC Latino noted that the 2010 Census found more 50.5 million Hispanics in the country.

That's an increase of 43% from the 2000 Census, a much faster increase than the 9.7% growth seen by the overall U.S. population and the 5% growth of the non-Hispanic white population between 2000 and 2010.

Looking forward the Census is predicting that there will be some 130 million Hispanics in the U.S. by 2050.

In the digital arena, Hispanics represent both a fast growing population and a group that has embraced online video, mobile phones, tablets and a number of other newer technologies faster than the general population.

Data from surveys conducted by the research firm Horowitz Associates shows that about two thirds of all Hispanics (66%) view TV programming at least once a week on a computer, laptop or handheld device, a much higher rate than the total population (54%) or whites (47%.)

Hispanics are also more likely to weekly stream TV programming over a tablet (22% versus 10% for whites or 13% for the general population), cell phones (23% versus 16% for whites and 18% for the general population), and game consoles (29% versus 17% for white and 20% for the general population,) according to the 2011 Horowitz surveys.

Not surprisingly, NBC has made mobile viewing one of its top priorities for the site's design. "This community loves smart phones and it was very important for us to make sure that we had an superior mobile viewing experience," notes Peña.

Having lots of video and closely integrated social media features will be two other key elements of the news sites design when launched in early 2012.

Though Telemundo creates Spanish-language content, Peña added that they will be working closely together with NBCU's Hispanic broadcast operation.

"Our staff is bilingual and their staff is bilingual, so we can translate each other's articles and use them," he noted. "We can also translate their articles and embed their video in Spanish along with it."

Peña added that Telemundo has already reached out to them to work on their coverage of the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling on the tough Arizona immigration law.

Peña stressed that they wanted to include content that goes far beyond the usual coverage of Hispanics in the mainstream media and include stories on "successful and inspiring Hispanics," as well as issues directly impacting the community.

With Hispanics playing an increasingly important role in the upcoming 2012 elections and issues like immigration likely to be widely discussed during the campaign, politics will also be an important part of the mix.

"We want the political vertical to be one of our core competencies," notes Peña, who says that one of their Web producers is already assigned specifically to politics and that they are bringing in recurring contributors on political issues.

Such political issues are also one of many areas, where Capus believes their focus on Hispanics can strengthen their overall coverage. "Once you target and focus on an audience, I think the stories that are important to them will be of interest to everyone," he notes.

On the business side, Capus noted that they are still working out how the site will be sold but he stressed that the launch is part of a larger expansion of NBC News. "This is an extension of all of those efforts," he notes. "It would be a shame not to use the success we've enjoyed in the ratings and not plow some of that back into new ventures."